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Pulkrabek: Johnson County Sheriff responds to gun permit information sharing

BY GUEST COLUMN | FEBRUARY 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The recent article by the Des Moines Register paints the picture that the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is soliciting information from the University of Iowa police in reference to students who apply for gun permits and what kind of grades they get. While we do acknowledge we have UI students sign a broad waiver and, as part of a background check, we do check with the UI police on the student.

The waiver they sign is on the Iowa Application Permit to Carry Weapons. In part, it has the wording that includes “all records concerning the applicant whether said records are of a public, private, or confidential nature.”

We are not, however, asking to know what grades a student is getting in classes. We are simply doing a background check with another local law-enforcement agency to make sure that they do not have a major concern or reason that the person should be denied a gun permit.

The practice of communicating with the UI police in regards to students getting gun permits can be traced back to the Gang Lu shooting on the UI campus in November 1991, when three faculty members, one administrator, and one graduate student were killed. One student was seriously wounded, and the gunman took his own life. The policy has been in place for years and likely has not been reviewed or updated since then.

We believe it is imperative to make sure we thoroughly check the background of individuals to make sure there are not issues that make them unqualified under Iowa law to have a gun permit. Receiving information that states a student is showing bizarre behavior or grades are on a downward spiral can be beneficial but on its own might not reach a level that calls for a denial on the weapons permit.

We believe and expect when we submit and ask for information that the UI knows what information it can legally release. As the sheriff, I do not pretend to be familiar with, or an authority on, the privacy-act guidelines that are referred to in the article.

It is through joint cooperation of law-enforcement agencies that we can work to make our communities safe. The change in the gun-permit law often referred to as “Shall Issue” took effect in January 2011 and did, in fact, significantly reduce a sheriff’s discretion on denying gun permits. It does mean that, although useful for background, the student information alone may not reach a threshold that qualifies for denial of a permit. In fact, in the last two years, there has not been any information provided by the UI police that resulted in a gun-permit denial.

This does not mean we should stop fully doing background checks with local law-enforcement agencies to make sure that we are doing our due diligence when looking out for the safety of the public.

Lonny L. Pulkrabek
Johnson County sheriff


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